PARIS, August 24 -- Donald Trump landed in France with First Lady Melania for the G7 summit Saturday, after taking a swipe at fellow leaders, calling them "friends of mine, for the most part" but not in "100 percent of the cases".
The president threw shade at some of America's closest partners on Friday evening, mere hours before he'd see them in Biarritz at the Group of Seven summit. He threatened to tax French 'like they've never seen before' and characterized world leaders attending the event as 'friends for the most part' in front of Marine One. 'We're going to France. We'll have a good few days. I think it will be very productive, seeing a lot of leaders who are friends of mine, for the most part,' he said of his trip, smirking as he added, "Wouldn't say in 100 percent of the cases, but for the most part." He did not say which leaders were getting under his skin, but Trump offered several hints in the comments he delivered outside the White House before he left for Europe with first lady Melania. She arrived into Biarritz wearing a yellow dress with pink stiletto heels and sunglasses. The first lady had departed Washington wearing a Chanel jacket, white pants and a black top. Trump harped on France's digital tax, which he said U.S. tech companies don't deserve. He noted that he's 'not the biggest fan of the tech companies,' which he again accused them of interfering in his election.
Yet, he said, their regulation should be up to the United States, and not foreign countries like France. "I don't like what France did. They put a digital tax on our tech companies," he said. "Those are great American companies, and frankly, I don't want France going out and taxing our companies, very unfair." He cautioned French President Emmanuel Macron against moving ahead with the action that could spark a protracted trade war with the United States. It is understood the two world leaders will have an unscheduled lunch together Saturday. "If they do that, we'll be taxing their wine, or doing something else. We'll be taxing their wine, like they've never seen before," Trump promised. Whether he meant for the earlier jab about his 'friends' in the global community to land on Macron or another leader he'll be seeing like German Chancellor Angela Merkel was unclear.
BEIJING, August 24 -- China said Friday that it will impose further tariffs on U.S. imports worth around $75 billion, in retaliation for planned tariff hikes on Chinese products by Washington.
The Commerce Ministry said it will impose additional tariffs of 5 percent or 10 percent on a total of 5,078 products of U.S. goods, some of which would take effect on Sept. 1 and the rest on Dec. 15. China will also resume imposing additional tariffs of 25 percent and 5 percent on U.S.-made vehicles and auto parts starting from Dec. 15, the Customs Tariff Commission of the State Council announced. The announcement comes as U.S. President Donald Trump has pledged that Washington will impose 10 percent tariffs on $300 billion worth of Chinese goods, effective on those two dates, in a move that would see nearly all imports from Asia's biggest economy taxed. The U.S. decision "has greatly hurt interests" of China, the United States and other countries and "has seriously threatened the multilateral trade system and the free trade system," Beijing said, adding, "China is forced to take reciprocal measures." "We hope China and the United States will resolve differences in a manner acceptable to both sides on the premise of mutual respect, equality, good faith, and consistency of words and deeds," the Customs Tariff Commission said in a statement.
The Trump administration has so far imposed 25 percent levies on a total of $250 billion of Chinese imports in an effort to reduce the chronic U.S. trade deficit with China, as well as to address alleged intellectual property and technology theft by Chinese companies. On Aug. 13, it delayed imposing a 10 percent tariff on laptop computers, cellphones, video game consoles and other "certain articles" imported from China to Dec. 15 from Sept. 1 as planned. The announcement drew some relief from retailers and other businesses concerned that the new levies, which in combination with current ones would have meant tariffs on nearly all Chinese imports, could have dampened consumption especially around the holiday shopping season.
WASHINGTON, August 23 -- President of Eurasia Group Ian Bremmer said that this is not the first time US President Donald Trump has brought up the idea of reinstating the G8 format with Russia's participation.
There is no possibility of the G8 with Russia's participation being reinstated, president and founder of Eurasia Group Ian Bremmer said on Thursday. He was commenting on recent statements by US President Donald Trump on the need to reinstate the G8 format with Russia's participation. "It's not the first time that [US President Donald] Trump has brought this up actually. He mentioned it during the Canada-hosted G7 as well," Bremmer said. "But the reason for Russia's removal wasn't [former US President Barack] Obama being 'outsmarted' by [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, but the response to the annexation of Crimea, which the G7 countries considered, and still consider, illegal. There is no possibility of the G8 being reinstated," he added. "As you may have heard, French President Emmanuel Macron has decided not to even attempt a communique at the end of the summit that will be held on August 24-26 in France's Biarritz - the first time that's happened since the meetings started in 1975. It's a G-zero world," Bremmer noted.
The Group of Seven (G7) is an association of industrialized countries that brings together the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Canada, the United States, France and Japan. In 1997, it was renamed the Group of Eight (G8) after Russia joined the association. In 2014, Western countries decided to return to the G7 format after the developments in Ukraine and deterioration of relations with Russia.
BEIJING, August 22 -- China is hopeful that US President Donald Trump can “honour” his earlier hands-off stance on Hong Kong, although the Commerce Ministry spokesman neglected to mention the latest statement from the American leader linking the trade talks between Washington and Beijing with the anti-government protests in the city.
China is hopeful that US President Donald Trump can “honour” his earlier hands-off stance on Hong Kong, although the Commerce Ministry spokesman neglected to mention the latest statement from the American leader linking the trade talks between Washington and Beijing with the anti-government protests in the city. Trump had been distancing himself from the tensions until earlier this week saying that trade talks with China would be hampered if Beijing used violent means to crack down on the ongoing protests in Hong Kong similar to those employed against pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989.Trump said that if a similar crackdown happened in Hong Kong, “there’d be tremendous political sentiment not to do something”, referring to trade negotiations between China and the United States. “It does put pressure on the trade deal. If they do something negative, it puts pressure,” he added. “We noticed that President Trump had said that Hong Kong is part of China and [China and Hong Kong] can sort it out on their own. We hope the US side can honor these words,” said Commerce Ministry spokesman Gao Feng on Thursday.
Protests have taken place in Hong Kong since June 9, sparked by demands for the city’s government to withdraw an unpopular extradition bill that would have allowed the transfer of suspects to mainland China. Protests have continued in the city for over 11 weeks despite Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam stating that the bill “is dead”. The stance from China’s Commerce Ministry is in line with China’s Foreign Ministry and state media as Beijing is opposed to linking the situation in Hong Kong with the talks over the ongoing trade war. Earlier on Wednesday, Trump added that “I don’t view it as leverage. I hope Hong Kong works out in a very humane way. I don’t view it as leverage or non-leverage. I hope it works out in a humane way. And I think that President Xi Jinping has the ability to make sure that happens”. Gao said China’s negotiating team has maintained contact with their American counterparts, with Vice-Premier Liu He believed to have taken part in a scheduled phone call with US trade representative Robert Lighthizer and US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin last week.
BEIJING, August 21 -- Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Wednesday asked Japan and South Korea to seek a solution to resolve their differences "through dialogue," amid concern that worsening relations between Tokyo and Seoul may threaten regional economic stability down the road.
Japan's Foreign Minister Taro Kono also called on Beijing and Seoul to bolster trilateral cooperation even when respective bilateral ties sour, but his South Korean counterpart Kang Kyung Wha lambasted Tokyo's moves to tighten export controls against her country.
"While maintaining a constructive attitude, it is important (for Japan and South Korea) to find out an appropriate solution through dialogue," Wang said at the outset of a foreign ministerial gathering of the three nations in Beijing.
Kono said, "Two countries sometimes face various difficulties respectively, but even under such circumstances, Japan, China and South Korea should work together trilaterally." A Japanese government official briefing reporters later in the day quoted Kono as telling Wang and Kang that the foreign ministers "should refrain" from raising issues related to bilateral relations during the trilateral meeting.
Kang, however, told Kono and Wang that South Korea hopes that the three nations will stick to "free and fair" trade for prosperity in the region in an apparent jab at Japan, underscoring that strains between Tokyo and Seoul are unlikely to wane soon.
She also said at a joint press appearance following the talks, "It is important to eliminate unilateral and arbitrary trade retaliatory steps and remove uncertainties" in East Asia. Kang did not single out Japan.
The Japanese official said Wang did not make comments aimed at mediating in the row between Tokyo and Seoul.
Recently, Japan-South Korea ties have plunged to the lowest point since normalization in 1965 over Japanese imposition of export control measures in the wake of a string of South Korean court rulings last year ordering compensation for wartime labor.
At a three-way meeting in Bangkok earlier this month, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged his Japanese and South Korean counterparts to make efforts to ease their confrontation, but no resolution has been in sight.
Although Tokyo, Beijing and Seoul agreed Wednesday to accelerate negotiations to reach regional free trade agreements, Japan-South Korea trade spats would make it more difficult for them to be realized, foreign affairs experts say.
BANGKOK, August 21 -- Thailand's finance ministry has cut its 2019 economic growth forecast to 3.0% from the 3.8% it projected in April, due to falling exports.
The ministry also said it changed its 2019 estimate for exports, a key driver of growth, to a fall of 0.9% instead of a 3.4% rise. However, the economy will be helped by a $10 billion stimulus package approved by the cabinet on Tuesday, it said. The outlook downgrade came a day after Thailand reported second-quarter growth of 2.3%, the weakest annual pace in nearly five years. Southeast Asia's second-largest economy expanded 4.1% last year, the best in six years.
VIENNA, August 20 -- OPEC+ countries participating in the Vienna Agreement on the reduction of oil production fulfilled the terms of the agreement by 159% in July 2019, a source said after the meeting of the OPEC+ technical committee.
"OPEC+ deal compliance percentage reaches 159% in July 2019," the source said. At the same time, OPEC countries complied with the agreement by 156%, and non-OPEC countries performed the agreement by 166%, the source added. Thus, in July the OPEC+ participants reduced production against October 2018 taken as the base level by 1.9 mln barrels per day, instead of early planned 1.2 mln barrels daily. In total, OPEC+ countries agreed to reduce oil production by 1.2 mln barrels per day by March 2020, including 812,000 barrels for OPEC countries and 383,000 barrels - non-OPEC countries. The main reduction quotas fall on the largest parties to the agreement - Russia and Saudi Arabia (228,000 barrels per day and 322,000 barrels per day, respectively).
For an apparently abandoned village, Doel certainly seems to have a life, and it’s not just tourists. Despite many inhabitants taking up offers of cash premiums and selling voluntarily around 2000, Doel still has residents who have endured, residents who are once again legally allowed to stay there.
“Court bailiffs appearing at doors used to be a fairly normal occurrence; and so was dealing with vandalism because the municipality wouldn’t provide the appropriate measures to help,” said Brian Waterschoot. Waterschoot is a member of Doel2020, a group responsible for promoting and representing the village through dialogue discussions about its future. “Looting, arson; these were all things that Doel regularly had to deal with, with little done to prevent them from happening,” he explained. While there might not be many of them, the village’s few remaining inhabitants have a certain pride in their houses. As a result, there is a surreal contrast in the village between quaint homes and buildings left exposed to the elements and the whims of vandals. “We settled with the authorities to stop further deterioration of buildings and vandalism by allowing people to live there. Metal plates have been installed to prevent access to abandoned houses, and a barrier that requires a Belgian ID card has been set up on the main road. People now feel a bit safer,” said Waterschoot. There are many buildings that could be habitable or that could be assigned a new function with a minimum of effort, he added. “The current situation is that we’re just trying to live in relative peace. Everyone has different reasons for being in the area, but we all share a common concern,” said Waterschoot. That concern is crystal-clear: What comes next?
The future of Doel
While it has existed in a state of administrative deadlock for years, progress is being made on the issue of Doel with a view towards the long term. After years of uncertainty, some things have changed for the better. One important reason for this is the “complex project”, which aims to create a framework to be implemented by 2030. This is the first opportunity we’ve had in years to sit together and discuss Doel, said Waterschoot. In May 2019, the Flemish government announced that it had selected the so-called ninth alternative for the expansion of the port of Antwerp, which combines a limited new dock that connects to the existing Deurganck dock with new container capacity via a more compact building strategy. In this scenario, Doel is safe, said Waterschoot. The future of Doel and the form the village can take are now the things that need to be researched carefully. Doel can never become the village it once was but the potential is enormous, explained Waterschoot. Its location close to the River Schelde, the port, the history of the village and the historic buildings that are left are all important features which a future Doel could be proud of, he added. One further plan for the future of Doel is a project being developed by the architects of the University of Leuven. The students have prepared detailed repair schedules for three valuable historic buildings in the derelict village. In this way, the students hope to warm the government and the people from the neighborhood to the idea of the reconstruction of the village.
Another question that is yet to be answered is what would be done with the destroyed buildings. “In a way, it could make sense to keep some of these buildings in their current state, as they indeed show the impact of a government failing to act,” said Waterschoot. This decision may have given a reprieve to the people of Doel, but what happens next remains unknown. For now, the future of the village is similar to its past, uncertain, hopeful and well supported by a few loyal residents refusing to give it up.
BEIJING, August 17 -- China has decided to lower real interest rates through market-oriented reform measures to address the financing difficulties facing small businesses.
China will take market-oriented reform measures to meaningfully reduce real interest rates and ease financing difficulties, the State Council's executive meeting chaired by Premier Li Keqiang decided on Friday. The Chinese government puts high emphasis on work related to lowering real interest rates and financing costs for businesses, particularly private, micro and small firms. Since the beginning of this year, the overall financing interest rate in China has steadily declined. "Thanks to the measures taken by various sides since early this year, real interest rates have been lowered to a certain degree. While borrowing was made less expensive, the difficulty in accessing financing has become more acute," Li said at the meeting.
Attendees at the Friday meeting pointed out that it is important to keep liquidity reasonably sufficient, and take reform measures to notably lower real interest rates. It was decided at the meeting to reform and improve the loan prime rate (LPR) mechanism. An above-five-year LPR will be made available in addition to the current one-year LPR to serve as pricing references for new bank lending. The purpose is to catalyze further reductions in real interest rates. It is important to make lending rates and fees more open and transparent. Charges by financial institutions will be strictly regulated and intermediate agencies will be urged to cut fees. "The lowering of real interest rates should be carried out in an open and transparent manner. There needs to be continuous progress in reducing financing costs to deliver tangible benefits to businesses," Li said. It was agreed at the meeting that a combination of monetary and lending policy tools will be implemented to facilitate a greater role by the guarantee system and reduce financing costs for the real economy. "The central bank needs to take a multi-pronged approach and employ a mixture of tools to ensure meaningful reductions in real interest rates," Li said. The meeting also decided to enhance lending support for creditworthy enterprises with market potential and ensure that loans will not be discontinued for no good reason. Financing woes of micro and small firms must be effectively addressed. Evaluation and supervision will be strengthened to guide banks in expanding market, innovating businesses models and delivering better services for the real economy. "We must earnestly address the financing difficulties of micro and small firms. Otherwise, employment could be affected given the large number of these companies," Li stressed.
NEW YORK, August 15 -- It was an ugly day for Wall Street as stocks plummeted on Wednesday (Aug 14) after the US bond market sounded a loud warning that the US economy might be headed towards a recession.
The Dow Jones dived 800.49 points or 3.05 per cent to 2,5479.42, its worst percentage drop of the year and fourth-largest point drop of all time. The wider S&P 500 benchmark fell 85.72 points or 2.93 per cent to 2,840.6, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite sank 3.02 per cent to 7,773.94. Investors were spooked by a scenario known as the “inverted yield curve,” which occurs when the yields or returns on short-term bonds are higher than those for long-term bonds. What it means is that people are so worried about the near-term state of the economy that they are piling into safer long-term investments, pushing up their prices, which sends yields lower. Briefly on Wednesday, the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury bond broke below the 2-year rate, a rare event that has been a reliable indicator in the past of economic recessions. Other parts of the yield curve have been inverted for a few months. For instance, three-month Treasury bonds have been yielding more than 10-year Treasury bonds since late May. But the gap there became more dramatic on Wednesday, with three-month Treasury bond paying nearly 0.4 percentage points more than 10-year Treasury bond, greater than the 0.1 percentage point difference seen in late May. Investors also rushed into the benchmark 30-year Treasury bond, pushing its yield to a new record low.
The actions in the US bond market signal that investors are more concerned about the escalating fallout of the trade war between the US and China and worried by signs that economic growth may be slowing around the globe as a result. Before the US market opened on Wednesday, came the latest stream of poor economic data from overseas, notably the weakest Chinese factory output data in 17 years and German data showing the economy contracted in the second quarter. China and Germany both have large trade surpluses with the United States, but they are also important customers for American products. Germany bought goods and services worth US$72 billion from the United States last year. China and Germany have been hit directly by Trump’s tariffs, and more broadly by the disruption to the global economy that the trade conflict has caused. In other recent dismal economic news, the British economy shrank in the second quarter, and growth flat lined in Italy. Singapore and Hong Kong, which are smaller but still serve as vital hubs for finance and trade, are also suffering.